Brokeback Mountain - Annie Proulx

Ladymol's review:

This novella is an absolute gem.

It's honed so sharply that it cuts.

In fifty eight pages, Annie Proulx tells the story of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, lovers in a world where love seems barely understood between men and women, let alone between two men.

It's a world of cowboys and vast destructive wilderness-tough lives and even tougher attitudes. Against all odds, Ennis and Jack meet and fall in love, a love that holds them captive to each other for the next twenty years.

In some ways, this is only my interpretation of the plot; Ennis and Jack certainly don't use words like love-it's not in their experience, they don't have words for this thing that they feel for each other, this powerful thing that makes them vomit every time they have to part.

This book is so finely written that it needs a couple of careful readings to get the most out of it. Much of the story is told by what is NOT said, and it's left for you to puzzle this out.

Annie Proulx writes with grandeur and preciseness that will send shivers down your spine. No graphic descriptions of sex, but I found a look or a word in this book more erotic than all the endless sex in books such as Darwin Potter's.

Okay, I know it's not fair to compare books if their aim was never the same to begin with, but this little book is a study in the art of writing. Deconstruct her language and you see the skill with which she places every word.

I've owned this book for years and returned to it many times. It's haunting. If ever a book were written that begs for a more tolerant society, it's this one; yet, ironically, Ennis and Jack would never have those thoughts themselves, or express them. They are products of their time and their environment, seemingly understanding the world that would condemn what they are.

There's going to be a lot of interest in this book soon as it's being made into the first mainstream Hollywood movie to explore gay sex between two men as graphically as heterosexual love can now be shown. On the one hand I'm utterly thrilled that this book is going to be made into a movie, but on the other, I'm terrified that the story will lose it's edge, become something it isn't.

Take my advice; get this book now before it becomes the "in thing" that everyone is talking about.

A gem of gay literature.

Cerisaye's Review:

If you want to beat the crowd and discover a small gem that's going to be the focus of a lot of media attention now it's in the hands of highly respected film director, Ang Lee, then get hold of this deceptively slight novella. You will experience the tumult of emotion that has left me struggling to find words to do justice to this powerful gay love story.

Annie Proulx is a master storyteller and this is an exquisite example of her craft. Haunting is an over-used word, but applied here I can assure you it's not hyperbole. I've read it twice, a handful more than 50 pages, and can't get it out of my mind. Its brevity I think actually adds to its impact. It's rather like getting hit over the head or slapped on the face, such is the depth of response it elicits.

The writing is stark and raw, familiar if you know the author's work, beautiful like its great outdoors setting, a breath of fresh mountain air mixed with the odours of sheep and cattle and the hard grafting men who tend to them. Although lushly descriptive, it is unrelenting in its lack of sentimentality or soft focus romanticism.

Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar are real life honest to God cowboys who find love in the rarefied atmosphere of Brokeback Mountain, Wyoming, where this sort of thing simply doesn't happen, not without the most dire consequences. It's a darkly realistic tale of lost love and missed opportunity, choices made and a lifetime to regret.

It's 1963. Jack and Ennis are simple men and their lives as ranch hands tough, the epitome of macho, yet one cold night a companionable working partnership herding sheep up the mountain explodes into an intense sexual relationship that alters both their lives forever.

Summer comes to an end and they go their separate ways, not to meet for another four years. Finally they reunite, an incredible coming together, jouncing the bed in an anonymous motel. They're caught in an impossible situation, riding passion without reins. Trapped in a loop of marriage, family, work and homophobia, slowly destroyed by the corrosive effects of settling for something neither man wants. It's sad to see the effect this has on Ennis's wife, through no fault of her own stuck with a man who wishes she were someone else. The focus, however, understandable in such a short piece, is firmly placed on Jack and Ennis.

Ennis is forced by circumstances forming the shocking climax to the story to look back over 20 years of his relationship with Jack, a punishing existence for them both, punctuated by intermittent "fishing trips" to unburden repressed desire. Ennis finally understands what he'd given up all those years before, left with memories and dreams of Jack, their times together and a keepsake of their love.

I warn you in a advance to have a hanky standing by because you will need it. There are a couple of disturbing scenes that might upset some readers but the quality of the writing means I have no hesitation giving it a well deserved highly recommended. It won't take up much of your time but it will stay with you forever.

Publisher: Fourth Estate ISBN: 1857029402


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